When Cia and her family are approaching the square for her graduation ceremony, they must pass over a hill before reaching the town. When she sees the hill, Cia is excited because she knows that the rest of her life will begin once she crosses over the apex. This is a metaphor for Cia’s life; she cannot see what is on the other side of her graduation ceremony. There is no turning back, and she must face the unknown future head-on.
the decimated cities
Cia’s descriptions of the ruined cities describe fairly accurately what the United States would look like after a nuclear war. Buildings are in shambles, with mounds of rubble lining once-populated streets. However, the cities that Cia enters are also metaphors for the ruined relationships that the Testing causes. While she thought she could trust Will and Tomas to be good people, she finds out that both were capable of despicable violence during the fourth round of testing. For Cia, those relationships will be impossible to salvage.
the oasis explosion
During the fourth round of testing, Cia and Tomas come across an oasis when they are looking for a water source. While Cia walks away to find an alternate source, the oasis explodes. Cia’s suspicions were right - the oasis was a trick set up by the Testing officials. The oasis represents an easy way out, one that Tomas would have gladly taken. However, the Testing officials do not believe in giving the candidates an easy route to success. The oasis explosion is a metaphor for just how far the Testing officials would go to punish anyone who looked for an easy solution. It also dissolved any trust that Cia had in the officials to be decent human beings. The explosion also highlights the differences between Tomas and Cia; Cia is much more calculating and instinctual than Tomas.
the “Five Lakes Colony way”
Cia mentions the “Five Lakes way” a number of times during the Testing period. It refers to the way she and her fellow classmates were raised to be kind, courteous, and compassionate. Saving Brick from Roman’s trick, asking candidates to eat with them during the fourth round, and even burying the dead girl are all things that she believes her family expects from her. It is a metaphor for the way that Cia wants to complete the testing. She knows the only way she will be able to live with herself will be to complete the Testing the “Five Lakes way.”
After the Testing ends, the remaining candidates are treated for any wounds or infections they suffered during the fourth round. Cia’s infection causes a serious scar on her arm that will never fully heal. Even after the Testing is over and Cia is accepted into University, the scar will remain a metaphor for the hardships suffered and extreme measures taken during the Testing. The scar will never fully leave Cia's body, and in spirit, she will be permanently changed by the experience - at least until the memory wipe.
The Testing Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Testing is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.